Bench pulls up absenting counsel, asks Rae Bareli court to speed up trial against Advani

On the 20th anniversary of the pulling down of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, the Supreme Court directed the Rae Bareli court to expedite the trial against BJP leader L.K. Advani and others in the demolition case.

A Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and C.K. Prasad on Thursday pulled up counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation for non-appearance in its appeal against dropping of conspiracy charges against Mr. Advani and others. The Bench expressed its displeasure to the CBI lawyer when he said Additional Solicitor-General A.S. Chandhiok, who was to represent the agency in the appeal, was held up in another court.

The Bench told the lawyer that the CBI was taking this case casually and directed that matter be listed for further hearing after six weeks. Meanwhile the Rae Bareli court should expedite the trial, the Bench said and allowed the CBI to delete the name of Bal Thackeray from the list of the accused following his death.

The Bench was hearing a special leave petition filed by the CBI against a judgment of the Allahabad High Court, which upheld the dropping of the conspiracy charge by the special court against BJP leaders Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and 18 others.

The High Court had on May 20, 2010 upheld the May 4, 2001 special court order and dismissed the CBI’s revision petition for a direction to proceed with the conspiracy charge against Mr. Advani and others. The CBI filed the appeal nearly nine months after the High Court verdict, with an application for condoning the delay.

Mr. Advani and others, in their response, said the accused in crime No 198/1992 had already appeared before the Rae Bareli special court, charges had been framed against them and they had pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.

Already several witnesses had been examined, Mr. Advani said. The CBI exercise in filing a consolidated charge sheet before the special court in Lucknow and challenging the proceedings up to the level of the Supreme Court was nothing but an abuse of the process of law. It also raised serious doubts about the bona fides of the CBI especially when the issue that the special court in Lucknow had no jurisdiction to try the case had attained finality what with the dismissal of the special leave petition, the review petition and the curative petition.

Mr. Advani said there was no illegality in the impugned trial court order dropping the conspiracy charge and that it was rightly upheld by the High Court. He sought dismissal of the CBI’s appeal on grounds of delay and merits.

Mr. Advani and 20 others faced charges in two cases arising out of two separate First Information Reports. The first FIR, conspiracy alleged against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks,” was for the offence of demolition of the mosque (case 197). The second FIR specifically charged Mr. Advani and other leaders with making inflammatory speeches leading to the demolition (198), and this case was tried in the special court in Rae Bareli. The two cases were later merged and handed over to the CBI, which filed the composite charge sheet on October 5, 1993.

However, due to a technical flaw, the two cases were revived by an order of the High Court on February 12, 2001.

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